Contractor MBG embraced BIM on a major multi-million pound hospital project – and saw the challenge pay off
With the increase in public-private partnerships (PPP), the Government UK BIM mandate, Brexit ramifications and possible government standardisations, the digital solutions choice of whether or not to use digital solutions is gradually being taken out of the hands of prime contractors on a global scale. Owners and government agencies are instead making the call, indicating that digital solutions are likely here to stay.
Project partners are seeing the benefits from increased communications efforts because of technology and as the tide of BIM and Virtual Design and Construction keeps rising, getting pushed into the water might just be the best way for firms to learn how to swim.
Belgian contractor MBG is doing just that, taking the BIM plunge for the first time on the Belgian Industrial CFE affiliate’s £105m AZ Sint-Maarten Hospital project in Mechelen – hardly the ideal project on which to experiment.
The public and privately funded nature of the project left the firm little room to negotiate on technology solutions. (This is not a full PPP project but financially, private partners VZW Emmaus-AZ Sint-Maarten need to follow rules applicable to government instances because they benefit from the project’s subsidies.)
“Our client made the decision to design this hospital in BIM,” says project manager Bens Bervoets.
As the contractor for the project, MBG was more than willing to adapt to the digital challenges head-on.
“This is one of the first big projects here in Belgium being done in BIM format, with Revit creating a 3D model,” says Bens.
“With a five-year build plan totalling nearly £303m for the finished hospital, the wide-open possibilities of how technology would be implemented on such a grandiose project was the first obstacle to tackle.
“For projects like this, there is a mountain of project information that has to be transferred to the right people, at the right time. Modern technology can provide solutions for everyone to make their job more efficient.”
Not lost in translation
As a project manager, Bens’ key challenges include ensuring the information from the complex BIM programmes could be properly translated and sent to the field, as well as gaining project partner approval for all updated drawings.
“Normally, we would get some drawings from our contractors and subcontractors and we’d have to review them, which would require me to print the drawing and make all my remarks the old school way, on a table with all my drawings as colours,” he explains.
“And then I’d have to go to our offices in Antwerp and scan them in A0 size. This is not a very complicated process, but it takes a lot of time.”
Instead, Bens used Revu to translate the informational drawings and host the mark-ups.
“Now with Revu, I can make all my mark-ups in the programme digitally, send them to the specialist contractors and suppliers, and they can easily send me their revisions in a PDF. We primarily use the annotations, hyperlinking and measurement tools. It’s a good programme because not every contractor, and definitely not every specialist contractor or smaller player on the project, has the BIM software or the right staff to work with it. So, especially with smaller specialist contractors, we use Revu.”
If you can show it, they’ll know it
The other component that eased MBG’s transition to BIM was the very device that showed the drawings.
“We are using a big touchscreen because it can show an A0-size drawing without zooming,” Bens says.
“That makes it an easier adjustment for workers who are used to checking drawings on the plotter paper.”
Not only did MBG save money and time by not needing to print on plotter paper, but also project latency was practically eliminated between drawing approval and posting on the touchscreen.
Bens elaborates: “We use the screen for meetings with the foremen of subcontractors so that our site superintendents can easily discuss short-term planning, because you can take a floor map of, for example, level two of the building, and you can mark it up easily using Revu on the big screen. You can easily make mark-ups with colours and then we can save it on the project extranet [making it possible to carry the documents along on site using an iPad] or send it to them by email.”
On track and moving ahead
Despite using BIM for the first time, MBG’s AZ Sint-Maarten Hospital project is moving full steam ahead and, more importantly, is right on schedule.
Bens and his MBG team are happy to have taken on the challenge: “For this project, there were a lot of test cases coming together. We had the screen, and BIM and Bluebeam Revu, and I think these will become standard practices on our future jobs.”
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*Please note: this is a commercial profile.